I only first discovered “the short rib” about 4 years ago. Since then I’ve seen it on the menu of just about every trying to be trendy or Asian fusion restaurant I’ve been to (on a side note, I’ve noticed a distinct trend in restaurants trying to be trendy lately). I’m sure some of that comes down to some culinary “Keeping up with The Joneses, but in its defense, the short rib makes for a fantastic dish. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a very tender and very flavorful cut of meat. Most often appearing on menus either marinated and grilled or braised and topped with a reduction of some kind.
Since that first discovery of short rib 4 years ago, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had one – somewhere between 40 and 50 would be my guess (I’m a shameless carnivore). Up until now though, I’ve had no idea what a short rib actually is. It’s beef – I could taste that that much, but there were so many more questions. Does a Kalbi short rib come from the same place as a regular short rib? What part of the cow does the short rib come from? If it’s a rib, why is it sometimes boneless, sometimes bone in and sometimes has lots of little round bones? Most importantly of course, if there’s a short rib, where’s the long rib!?
Thanks to the fountain of wisdom known as Wikipedia, I can now answer these questions. (After reading the Wikipedia entry I feel I should clear something up right now (if you haven’t figured out already). When referring to “short rib”, I am referring to the cut of meat and not the comic strip nor the bone abnormality.) It turns out…drumroll… the short rib comes from the ribs of the cow. To be more specific, there’s the short rib and there’s the back rib (unfortunately no long rib it seems). The “short” in short rib comes from the “short plate”, which is the specific part where these ribs are cut (thanks to AmazingRibs for the explanation (and for helping me get lost for 2 hours reading about beef cuts)).
The Kalbi style short rib is in fact from the same cut as any other type of short rib (except the “boneless country-style short rib” which Wikipedia warns is actually just a cheaper alternative to a rib steak – accept no substitutes!). The Kalbi (or Korean) styled ribs are just sliced thinner and butterflyed instead of serving whole. This is technically a Flanken cut (it’s the thin cut with lots of little round bones spread throughout). There’s also the English cut, which is essentially just a rack of bone-in ribs. These can be prepared without the bone, which has been how I have usually encountered them.
If you haven’t tried one yet, I highly recommend it. Go for a whole, braised rib over the thinner Kalbi style if you have the choice (there’s a place I found which serves it braised and then fried; though I tend to shy away from fried food, I’m very interested in trying that out). I find you can’t truly appreciate the tenderness of the meat with the thin cut (I once had one come out to me essentially shredded – I had to cry myself to sleep that night). Normally a very tough and sinewy piece of meat, braising the rib (or any other cut) breaks down the tougher fibers and makes for a very tender, flavorful piece of meat that will fall apart with a fork when done right. I usually prefer mine topped with a red wine sauce or something similar served with a side of risotto or polenta. All in all, the short rib is a welcome find on any restaurant menu!
Before I go, if you find a long rib somewhere out there, please let me know!